Communication and the Art of Sacrifice
In the field of branding, it’s said that positioning is the art of sacrifice. A brand can only effectively own one position in the mind of the consumer. To succeed in building a powerful brand, a company must choose a position which they can consistently deliver on and then reinforce that difference in everything they do, from product design to advertising to store layout to how they answer the phones.
I’d like to add that in the tangential field of communications, sacrifice is also the key to success. Successful communication begins and ends with one simple test: did you craft a piece of communication where the message you wish to deliver is clearly understood by the recipient? Too often a single communication – whether it be a blog post, collateral, social media, newsletter, ad, news release, what have you – is asked to do too much. Good communication is simple, easy to comprehend, and easy to remember. Complexity is for Umberto Eco and Gabriel Garcia Marquez novels (which are great reads, by the way). If the reader has to puzzle out what you’re trying to communicate, you’ve failed.
This is a symptom of a larger malady challenging the communications industry. Trying to shoehorn multiple disparate and often nuanced messages into a single piece of communications is an attempt to make up for the lack of a larger, cohesive communications plan.
For any single communication to be optimally effective, it needs to fit into a larger strategy. Trying to sandwich extra ideas into a focused piece (and they all need to be focused) is not only inelegant, it’s ineffective. It’s a sign of no guiding strategy, or a lack of sufficient faith in the established strategy. At the risk of sliding into banalities, Plan the Work and Work the Plan.
Ask yourself three questions when building a piece of communication: 1) What is the one desired takeaway? 2) What is the engagement ask of the receiver, and does it match item one above? In other words, if you want detailed understanding, a tweet isn’t going to suffice. If you want to start building awareness, a tweet is a great way to start. 3) What are the supporting pieces of the communications strategy and do they complement the goal of our first question?
Bottom line: don’t ask too much of any one piece of communication. Understand and trust that it’s part of a larger whole.